Our McLaren History

At the McLaren Ball this past Saturday evening, the tunnel leading into the McLaren Technology Center was lined with each of the McLaren road cars built since the launch of the F1 back in 1992. In essence, it was the McLaren Automotive family tree. Walking down the tunnel brought back both many happy memories and reminded me of my biggest miss when it came to car buying. In total there were nine different models lined up alongside the right-hand wall. The fact that eight of the nine cars have been launched since 2011 is hugely impressive. Of the nine models, we have owned five (including 3 versions of 1) with a sixth coming in early 2019. The three models we haven’t owned are the 570S, 600LT, and F1. It is the last of these three that represents the biggest miss in my car buying career. I had a chance to acquire a F1 for around GBP 700,000 back in 2005 but passed as I thought that was a ridicules amount of money for a car at the time.

The first McLaren we were fortunate enough to own was a RHD 2013 12C Spider. How we ended up with the 12C Spider is a short story but a bit of a long saga. The short story is Mrs. SSO took one out for a test drive, disappeared into the countryside for the better part of three hours, and we she finally returned, the car was sold (Mrs. SSO’s Story: https://karenable.com/how-we-ended-up-with-our-1st-mclaren/ ). The longer story goes back to 2010 when I first heard that McLaren would be re-entering the car business. I immediately contacted them and asked to have us put on the list for the F1’s successor. While completely un-committal, McLaren did take both my details and a short history of the cars we had owned. Later when the 12C was first announced, I told them I was interested but wanted to test drive it before putting down a deposit. I was told that I needed to place a deposit to get a test drive. The result was a two-year stalemate before we were finally invited to come test drive a 12C Spider. Had this not been the case, we probably would have ended up with our first McLaren a year or two earlier. More on the story this 12C Spider is: https://karenable.com/vintage-article-1st-impressions-mclaren-12c-spider/ . Our 1st 12C Spider was sold back to McLaren London we moved to the left side of the Atlantic in 2014.

McLaren #2 was a LHD 2012 12C Coupe, acquired in early 2014. At the time I was commuting back and forth between London & Hamburg. With the autobahn beckoning, we decided to see if we could get another 12C to enjoy on the continent. As I had zero contacts with McLaren in Germany, I called one of the gentlemen I knew at McLaren HQ in Woking and asked if they had any LHD executive fleet test cars that they were looking to sell. Miraculously they did, and the spec was almost identical to our RHD 12C Spider. A deal was quickly done, and arrangements made to pick up the car at McLaren Stuttgart. Post collection, it was a brilliant drive from one end of Germany to the other including both a stop at the Nürburgring and multiple long high speed runs on empty stretches to autobahn. A few times I ran into 911s that would run up alongside to take a look. When mashing the throttle things were pretty even, however the big ceramic brakes on the 12C were far superior. I did almost get rear ended once when I had to stand on them hard. Probably the most memorable time with both 12Cs was when we took them up to Scotland for a week of brilliant driving. Like the RHD 12C Spider, we parted with the 12C Coupé when we moved back to the new world.

Our 3rd McLaren was a 2014 LHD 12C Spider acquired immediately upon arrival in the US. This car would become my daily driver for the following year, a role it performed flawlessly. The only issue we ever had with our final 12C Spider was a temperature sensor that needed replacing. As our 3rd 12C, there were a few things that we did observe. With each year, the build quality improved. Minor gremlins that would occasionally appear in the 2012 12C Coupé, never occurred with the 2014 12C Spider. The 2nd generation of the IRIS infotainment system, while still not great, was a huge step up over the original version. Our original intent was to keep this 12C Spider for the long haul but that changed quickly when we were presented with a great deal to trade up to a 650S Spider.

McLaren #4 & #5 arrived on the same day. Despite my best attempts at trying to negotiate a buy one, get one free deal, all we got for my efforts was a polite smile and two invoices. McLaren #4 was the long awaited P1 & #5, the 650S Spider which has served faithfully as my daily driver for the last 3 ½ years. At the handover, Mrs. SSO quickly staked out her claim on the P1 by jumping into it immediately and then not so subtly pointed a finger at me first and then at the 650S Spider. The story on our P1 is: https://karenable.com/mclaren-p1-farewell/ and the 650S Spider’s life as my workhorse: https://karenable.com/1000-days-with-the-mclaren-650s-spider/ .

McLaren #6, which arrived in the summer of 2016, is my favorite to date. The 675LT Spider stirs the soul every time you take it out. Every so often a car manufacturer puts together a package that is just pure driving magic, for McLaren it’s the 675LT. In the last several years we have done several 1000 plus mile road trips in the 675LT Spider, run it up and down the Rocky Mountains, (see: https://karenable.com/montana-the-mclaren-675lt-spider/ ) and driven it through scrubland in 110 degree F temperatures without the car ever missing a beat. The 675LT Spider has a unique combination of power, poise, and engagement that makes it an engaging, thrilling car to drive. Like the Ferrari F40 that we have owned for a decade, I can’t imagine ever parting with the 675LT Spider.

McLaren #7, represents the dangers of taking your wife to a launch party. As soon as the 720S was unveiled, Mrs. SSO announced she wanted one. I asked she would drive it regularly and got a resounding yes. We placed our order shortly thereafter and got one of the first post launch spec build slots. Like all of our “standard” Super Series McLarens, it is stealth black/black with a bit of orange detailing for color. If the 675LT Spider is my favorite McLaren, the 720S is Mrs. SSO’s. If the 650S was a subtle across the board improvement on the 12C, the 720S moves the game forward significantly. Down a highway on ramp, it can hold it’s own with a P1. All the changes to the controls and dashboard make sense and are more intuitive once you get used to them. While the 4.0-liter twin turbo V8 lacks a bit of the character that the Italians excel at delivering, it hurls the 720S at the horizon at a shocking clip when you bury your right foot on the accelerator. Turbo lag is non-existent and the 720S feels incredible nimble and connected to the road. I am very much looking forward to the LT version. More on the 720S: https://karenable.com/drivers-seat-mclaren-720s/ .

McLaren #8, the Senna, will arrive sometime in the Spring of 2019. We placed the order for our Senna back in 2017 and completed the spec’ing process in the summer of 2018 (see: https://karenable.com/specing-the-mclaren-senna/ ) . This will be our first blue McLaren. As usual on the Ultimate Series Cars, we asked for a one of the last build slots and McLaren was very accommodating. While I haven’t driven one to date, all the feedback from friends who have taken delivery would indicate this will be another very long-term keeper.

While I’m sure there will be a McLaren #9, what it will be is very much an open question right now. I wasn’t one of the fortunate 106 to get a Speedtail allocation, so it will not be McLaren’s new ultimate GT. If I had to guess, right now the two likeliest options are a 7XXLT Spider or a 650 GT3, if I can get Mrs. SSOs approval to get back on the racetrack.

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December 2018

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10 Thoughts on Our McLaren History
    Josh Stephenson
    16 Dec 2018

    Another fantastic article!
    Does it ever get a little repetitive considering all the engines are somewhat a evolution of the last?
    I know the same could be said about the 911 but Porsche’s (admittedly larger) range has a greater variety of powertrains.

    Or are the vehicles themselves so different the engine side of things doesn’t matter as much?

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